Global Mobility Professionals: Heroes In Tough Times

Unsung Heros - Furlough

Heroes In Tough Times The past six months have brought challenges for Global Mobility and GM Professionals.  Many of them coordinated crisis responses that moved people around the world to safer locations.  Flights, visas, accommodation, partners, children and pets – all the arrangements that are usually required for a few assignees suddenly needed for many.  Some expats have stayed in critical locations, sometimes separated from family, some have returned ‘home’ without their belongings, and many are waiting for their next assignment, uncertain about the future, or dealing with furloughs and redundancies while concerned for their previous neighbours, colleagues and friends.


Recent discussions with GM professionals and suppliers suggests they are often acting as ongoing supporters to those expats who are uncertain of their next moves, or are living in limbo waiting for borders to reopen to reunite with family or workmates.  You are bringing that friendly voice on the call or face in the zoom meeting to provide the empathy and understanding needed for those under pressure. Yes, many organisations provide Employee Assistance Programs. Still, the familiar HR or GM contact who understands the issues around relocation and can relate to the experiences the expat has been through, may seem preferable to speak with than the unknown mental health professional. The pain of loss and the feelings of grief are real.  It can help to remind people that the responses to loss of sadness, anger or denial are normal.  People are not weak or unwell for acknowledging these emotions, for feeling overwhelmed, or for recognising the physical and mental exhaustion that often comes after a shock.  Instead, recognising these as normal responses to an abnormal situation can give permission to face the responses instead of trying to soldier on. We know that global mobility builds strengths of resilience and adaptation.  The process of adapting to a new culture and location stretches and develops people. It develops their perspectives on the world, their cognitive responses to different ways of operating, their ability to deal with complexity and sit with competing ideas and their ability to manage their own wellbeing.  That’s why many talent management programs require an overseas assignment as part of developing their global leadership team. These skills can support both expats and global mobility professionals in these challenging times.  What’s often needed is to recognise this and to reflect on how to generalise from these previous experiences. ‘What did you do that helped you to settle into that difficult location?’ ‘What were the things that kept you strong back when…?’ One of the differences in this situation, however, is the lack of agency or control.  Previously expats were leaving for assignments with enthusiasm, looking forward to new opportunities.  Now they are returning reluctantly with little sense of control over decisions being made for them. The choice remaining is often how do we respond to the situation we face today? One of my favourite quotes for this period is from Tolkein, “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”


The unsung heroes of lockdown times have been described as IT and HR professionals.  Those who enabled and supported us in working from home and adapting to the new work environment. To me, the GM professionals who have responded with care and concern supporting others by listening and understanding are also heroes, and can rightfully reflect with pride on the work done. As the furloughs and redundancies are having an impact, we may also be looking at our own position and feeling the uncertainty, or suffering the pain of loss.  Managing our own self-care in these times is essential.  Take time to do what you need to replenish your energy and manage your wellbeing. If I can help in any way please contact me – Trisha Carter at



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